Field Trip to Longwood Gardens

I needed to show a client some examples of how an old and fragile tree can be supported by props.  So I used that as an excuse to take Jodie and go on a little excursion to Longwood Gardens. (Note to the IRS: that’s why the company paid for our trip.)
Longwood has 2 nice examples of this kind of support system.  One is this big cedar that has a threatening lean.

leaning cedar

The other is this old decrepit mulberry.  It looks like it should be cut down, doesn’t it?  But Longwood keeps it alive because it is the record holder for largest mulberry in Pennsylvania.  Sometimes there is a reason to make “heroic” efforts to preserve a “veteran” tree.


The props are made out of decay-resistant black locust logs that were cut somewhere on Longwood grounds.  Pretty cool, huh? With that mission (getting those photos) accomplished, we spent the rest of the day enjoying Longwood’s many indoor and outdoor exhibits.  I’ll share a few things I found interesting. Some of the lawns are meticulously maintained, like a golf course.  But not all.  I especially like the areas that are filled with spring-blooming flowers, like here.

Inside one othe the greenhouses, Jodie pointed out a plant that caught her eye (I forget what it was).  I looked at it and said I didn’t think it was pretty.  It had pale colored leaves.  My sense of beauty appreciates dark green colored plants – I guess because I’m looking through arborist eyes.  Green = chlorophyll = energy = healthy. Right after we stepped out of that building, I said “Look! That’s what I like.  Look how dark green that tree is!”

Lastly, I shot a few pictures to show how Longwood mulches around their trees.  This is the right way to do it!

Note: No trenches around the perimeter, you can always see the trunk flares, they cover a lot of square feet, and the material is: partly composted wood chips!

Announcing the first JTS photo contest

Topic: Most Ridiculous Mulch Volcano Valuable Prizes!
About the Contest: The idea here is to raise the level of public tree awareness. I picked the volcano topic because it’s the biggest, nastiest tree problem out there. Mulch volcanoes are a bigger threat to the trees of suburbia than any insect, even the dreaded emerald ash borer! All are welcome to enter, whether you are an ordinary citizen with just the slightest interest in trees, or a green industry professional. You don’t need to be a skilled photographer either. We’re going to judge these photos on lots of different criteria. Photographic composition might be one of them. “Artiness.” But also anything that makes the photo interesting. Maybe the perps caught in the act. Maybe the root injuries or girdling roots depicted. Maybe something about the location, that it’s somewhere that you’d think they’d know better. Maybe just the sheer outrageousness of the volcanic mass. Some little detail that makes it humorous. Be creative…
If you are a serious gardener or plant person, you know about the mulch volcano problem. If you don’t know, Google it. And marvel at the number of hits! And then read the articles I’ve posted on this site.

Mulch Madness I
Mulch Madness II

mulch madness
Stay tuned for more details. I’ll have a page for the contest within the next few days. And start carrying your camera in your car. There are so many photo opportunities out there!

Mulch Madness Part II

I saw this mulch prep job in progress during my travels a couple of weeks ago.  It shows how NOT to mulch so perfectly, I could not resist sharing.

The landscapers have dug trenches around the trees and piled the soil they dug out up against the tree trunks.  Look at this pile!  You can see why we call them mulch volcanoes.

mulch volcano

Look at all the roots that were cut in the trenching process.

mulch volcano

mulch volcano

How could these guys not be aware that root injuries like this harm the tree?

mulch volcano

mulch volcano

Maybe it’s almost time to remove those stakes?

mulch volcano

Well, you can’t fault them on thoroughness – look, they’re mulching the dead tree!

mulch volcano

And here, they’ve even got the low branches covered!  That’s really extra effort!

mulch volcano

Ok, all this is incredible malpractice.  But some people, not knowing any better, think it looks nice.

If your landscape maintenance effort is really eye-catching, the neighbors might try to emulate it.  Here, the guy across the street apparently was inspired to mulch his pin oak.

mulch volcano

Unfortunately, the material he had available was old mortar and stucco!

Ok, I’m done complaining for a little while.  Next, I’ll show you how to do it right and why.

(go to March 19 for Mulch Madness Part I)

Mulch Madness is in full swing now!

Everywhere I go it seems that employees of the assembly-line landscape maintenance companies are doing their annual GROSS MALPRACTICE of piling soil and mulch against the tree trunks.

When these guys dig their little trenches to define the edge of the mulched area they cut and injure the trees roots.  Then, often, the soil that’s dug in the process gets piled on top of last years mulch.  Then they’ll cover it with more mulch.  In addition to the health problems caused by the mulch being in contact with the bark of the trunk, this is one of the primary causes of the growth of roots in a pattern that girdles and eventually kills these trees.

But may be you’re thinking “I see this going on everywhere.”  Maybe even at every house on your street.  So Warren must be full of crap, everybody besides him couldn’t possibly be wrong!  Well, if you don’t believe me, just Google the term mulch volcano and see what you come up with!  (mulch volcano is the derisive term used by knowledgeable people in the world of horticulture to describe this abomination.)


Since this is probably the biggest tree health problem I have to deal with, you will see MUCH MORE on this subject coming to this page.  Stay Tuned.